Press freedom debate: Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger attacks royal charters as a 'medieval piece of nonsense'

 

Leading journalists last night voiced their concerns for the future of investigative reporting in the face of new press regulation, with Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, describing royal charters as a “medieval piece of nonsense”.

Click here to watch the full session of the Investigative Journalism Debate

In a debate at The London Press Club, Mr Rusbridger, who has come under fire in recent weeks for his paper’s publication of top-secret files, said: “What journalists have to do is create something clearly independent of politicians and the press and we would get a lot of support from the public. But this medieval piece of nonsense which appeared out of the blue is the thing that has hideously complicated things.”

The draft plan to regulate the press includes powers to impose million-pound fines on UK publishers, demand apologies, and set up a new low-fee complaints system. Supported by the main political parties, it will be put forward for approval to the Privy Council on 30 October.

Tom Harper, The Independent’s investigations reporter, said the proposed changes would prevent journalists getting information that was in the public interest.

In answer to the question “Can Investigative Journalism Survive?”, Mr Harper said: “Yes, it will always survive because there will always be people of conscience on the inside brave enough to blow the whistle. And there will always be nosy journalists who want to uncover wrongdoing.”

But he said it was getting increasingly difficult in the post-Leveson age as journalists’ interactions with sources are much harder. “Whistleblowers in the public interest are being arrested for exposing things that are embarrassing to officialdom and, thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know communications such as Skype are able to be monitored.

“Lord Justice Leveson proposed that all communications between journalists and police officers should be minuted and conducted in the presence of a press officer. I understand the concerns over inappropriate interactions between the police and the press, but that ‘catch-all’ recommendation has made it much harder for police officers to blow the whistle to journalists. I believe that is anti-democratic and, crucially, not in the public interest.”

Andrew Gilligan, a reporter for The Telegraph, said: “Arbitration would be free of charge for them (the claimants), but not for us. It will be a gold mine for claim farmers. There will be far fewer stories that will risk a claim.”

He added: “Almost all investigative journalism involves an assessment of the balance between risk and reward. By raising the risk, the balance is tipped further away from the journalist. I think press freedom stands at a crossroads in this country and we are all in real danger.”

Tom Bower, a biographer who has won a series of libel battles against Robert Maxwell, Richard Branson and Richard Desmond, said newspapers were already regulated by strict libel laws and an unforgiving public: “We are already regulated by some of the most draconian libel laws and if people don’t want to buy a newspaper they shut down like the News of the World. But, even with the failures at Stafford Hospital, it has still stayed open.”

Heather Brooke, a journalist who helped expose the MPs’ expenses scandal, said that it was a dangerous delusion that the public could think news coverage and investigative reporting could be free. It cost money and unless ways could be found to provide this serious journalism was under threat.

Doug Wills, Chairman of London Press Club, said: “We felt it was important that those on the front line of investigative journalism should be able to have a frank debate about what many see as unprecedented threats and pressures on investigative journalism. The passionate defence of serious journalism and the confidence in the future of investigations into issues of public interest was heartening to hear. And it was encouraging that the wide spectrum of people who attended the debate roundly supported this.”

A Royal Charter supported by the main political parties will be put forward for approval to the Privy Council on 30 October. An alternative charter drawn up by the industry was rejected by the Privy Council.

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Financial Controller

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is a busy and varied role w...

Senior Business Development Manager

£60-70k fixed, double OTE uncapped: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Senior Bus...

Ad Operations Executive

30,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: My client is a global name within the ente...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?